Help make our video available online
November 13, 2007 1:36 PM   Subscribe

I work for a municipality that televises its public meetings on a government access cable channel -- I need help finding a way to make these cablecasts available to the public online. Regular video hosting services I've looked at don't seem to be quite what we're looking for.

Our public meeting broadcasts on cable access are high quality and well-received by our residents. But only cable subscribers can watch them.

We make DVD copies of the meetings available at the public library, and we also make individual DVD copies for a small fee upon request.

Many people have suggested that we upload the video to our city website and stream it, but I've been told this would require a special server that we don't have.

I have also looked into a few video hosting sites, but they all seem to require video of such short duration that each meeting would have to be broken into many parts. Our meetings last, on average, from 1 to 2.5 hours, and there are usually 6, or so, meetings each month.

The meetings are cablecast live and simultaneously recorded on a Panasonic DMR-T6070 digital video recorder and later archived to DVD. The technical specs for the DVR are here, in case they're helpful to anyone.

Is there a better (or best) way to make our meeting videos available to the community online?
posted by OilPull to Technology (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you looked at Granicus? That's what is used at the municipality where I work.

NB: I have nothing whatsoever to do with this function, but I can vouch for it working pretty dang well.
posted by contessa at 1:48 PM on November 13, 2007

Why not upload them to the Internet Archive and then link to the videos.
posted by JJ86 at 2:38 PM on November 13, 2007

Three suggestions:
1) Google. They've done work with CSPAN and Charlie Rose to put up hours and hours of video for public access.
2) The Internet Archive might also be interested. IIRC there's a MeFite who works there, he or she may pop in here.
3) Hire somebody to write a simple web app that encodes the video as FLV or H.264 or something and store it on Amazon S3.
posted by Skorgu at 2:40 PM on November 13, 2007

Can you give us a spec on use? I think that's key, right? I remember that Dept of Transportation and council meetings were always well watched when I did PETV, but other meetings were just wasting space on the servers and sometimes for months. If you already transcribe your public meetings, why don't you keep transcripts available with the City Clerk for your less popular meetings and then keep council and (two) other popular ones online with an advertised removal date two weeks after the posting and then have a transcript and DVD available after a certain date with a DVD and transcript also given free to the local public library. A short viewing window online will give you the opportunity to actually gauge how often this technology is really being used and whether the investment is worth it. Often, as you are probably aware, municipalities invest without a consideration of actual usage. In the meantime, increase media access to public meetings by holding a public forum on 'increasing citizen media participation in local goverment'. That will reel in a lot of people who are running small time operations covering local events and issues and give you the opportunity to really develop perhaps an underused media resources. It will also give you an eye to media outlets that might be interested in hosting your meetings off-site or even sponsor the experiment to see if the public is really interested in the venture.
posted by parmanparman at 2:45 PM on November 13, 2007

Response by poster: parmanparman:

I would say that three of our regular meetings would be 'popular,' and the rest not, as a rule. I can't say how many people actually watch, but it's more than you might expect, judging from the number of complaints we get if there is a mic problem, or similar.

I agree that keeping the entire archive online is not necessary and would be happy with a two-week exposure, as you suggest.

The transcripts of the meetings are available at the clerk's office, like you suggest. I also agree that we don't want to make a big investment in this without knowing what level of use it's likely to get. I don't think we would be interested in having off-site meetings, as we have already made a sizable investment in our broadcast equipment at city hall.
posted by OilPull at 3:26 PM on November 13, 2007

Response by poster: To everyone else:

Thank you for the suggestions, I will take a look at all of them.
posted by OilPull at 3:26 PM on November 13, 2007

It sounds like you already have them digitized if you're putting them on DVD's, so just add a step where you compress it into H.264 mpeg4 video with 128kbit audio. MP4 files are fine for streaming, so you can slap a page on top of the directory on your web server that you store these files (there are a million gallery scripts out there that can do this), and voila. Streaming video.

If you don't actually have the DVDs digitized because you're using a DVD recorder straight off the desk or something like that, then just put a step in where you rip the DVD to a file. Then do the .mp4 compression step.
posted by rhizome at 4:18 PM on November 13, 2007

I don't think we would be interested in having off-site meetings, as we have already made a sizable investment in our broadcast equipment at city hall.

Apologies for mis-writing. I meant, can you find a partner to host the video of the proceedings?
posted by parmanparman at 4:56 PM on November 13, 2007

If you don't have the upstream bandwidth to support streaming with what may be popular videos, have a look at using bittorrent to get them out there - the more people who want to watch it at once, the faster they can download it! And in the worst case (no concurrent downloads), it should never be noticeably slower than just hosting the video files on http.

Bittorrent is pretty easy at both the client and server ends; your viewers are more likely to have trouble with not having the correct codecs loaded on their machines, so use something really common that has decent compression, like DX50 (DivX5). Put links to azureus and VLC on your webpage next to all the .torrent links.
posted by polyglot at 7:08 PM on November 13, 2007

Can't believe nobody's suggested uploading this stuff to Youtube yet.

You can create a 'channel' to wrap around all the city's clips. You may need some help shrinking the clips to an acceptable size, and to think about who's doing the shrinking/uploading.
posted by genghis at 9:31 PM on November 13, 2007

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